Venezuela Will Build a Fuel Warehouse in the Cuban Port of Mariel

Diosdado Cabello with Roberto Morales Ojeda, Secretary of Organization of the Communist Party of Cuba. (@aylinalvarezG/Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 August 2023 — Both the official Cuban and Venezuelan press have been secretive about the visit to the Island of Diosdado Cabello, the second man in the regime of Nicolás Maduro and the United Socialist Party of that country (PSUV). However, his tour this Wednesday through the port area of Mariel, where Venezuela will build a facility to store fuel, and his conversation, on Tuesday, with senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Trade, show that his trip is not limited to a meeting “between parties.”

Also meeting with the senior staff of the Cuban Communist Party – with the notable absence of its first secretary, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel – the vice president of the PSUV went on Tuesday to the Cubanacán protocol hall, located in the luxurious El Laguito complex in Havana, to sign an agreement with his counterpart, Roberto Morales Ojeda.

However, Televisión Cubana did not offer details about the content of the document, and Cabello limited himself to saying that his objective is to “institutionalize a willingness to approach prior to issues related to the preparation of political cadres and joint work.”

The cameras also did not capture the conversation, also in the protocol room, between Cabello and Ricardo Cabrisas, head of Foreign Trade on the Island and one of the architects of the regime’s economic policy. Only through a video of the Venezuelan politician Ángelo Rivas, retweeted by Cabello, can it be verified that both senior officials spoke – accompanied by two delegations – although it is not known what issues they discussed.

A brief text of the official program Con el mazo dando*, directed by the vice president of the PSUV, revealed that on Wednesday Cabello was in the Mariel Special Development Zone, to “exchange experiences in economic matters.” There he met with Ana Teresa Igarza, director of the complex, and discussed several “possibilities of business and economic agreements.”

Among the joint projects of Havana and Caracas in Mariel is, according to the program, an “area for the production, storage and distribution of fuel,” which will be dedicated to “agricultural development and food production.” On the tour of Mariel, Cabello was accompanied by Morales Ojeda.

Venezuela also pledged a year ago to rebuild the Matanzas Supertanker Base, which suffered the largest industrial disaster in the history of the Island in August 2022. “Cuba knows that it has our scientific, technical and engineering workers’ support,” Maduro said in statements reported by Prensa Latina. “Contact the oil and energy authorities of Cuba to begin the reconstruction design of the Supertanker yard in Matanzas,” he ordered.

Despite the fact that, in the political field, Havana and Caracas maintain an unquestionable attachment, oil shipments to Cuba – the most coveted asset for Havana since 2000, when Caracas became its main supplier – have been tending to decrease for a few months. However, and as the plans for the future storage of oil in Mariel testify, the exchange remains an essential component of the alliance.

The Venezuelan senior official landed on Monday in Santiago de Cuba with a delegation that includes several vice presidents. The surprising trip provoked suspicions among the opposition to the Maduro regime, which is increasingly trying to shield itself on the eve of the 2024 elections.

Several opponents denounced that Cabello was on the Island to receive “guidelines” and instructions to liquidate anti-Chavista politicians such as María Corina Machado, one of the most critical voices within the current government.

Former political prisoner and exile Jorge Vergara said that Cabello – whom he accuses of organizing “constant threats” against Machado – “went to plan with his Cuban leaders some kind of atrocious act to stop María Corina and everything she is doing at the national level.” He also asked Venezuelans to “take care” of the former deputy, so that the same thing did not happen to her as did to the Cuban Oswaldo Payá, for whose death, according to a recent report by the Organization of American States, the Cuban State is responsible.

Cabello visited several historic places, such as the cemetery of Santa Ifigenia – where Fidel Castro is buried – and the Moncada barracks, assaulted 70 years ago. During his speech at the cemetery he made it clear that the alliance between Caracas and Havana remains: “Cuba and Venezuela continue to have the same flag,” he summarized.

*Translator’s note: A shortened version of “a Dios rogando y con el mazo dando” — roughly: Pray to God but keep rowing, or God helps those who help themselves.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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